“Nine, one, one. What is your emergency?” asked the Dispatcher at 6:03 in the evening in the County San Diego Operation Center.
“My daughter is being abused by her father,” yelled a woman.
“What’s your name?”
“Are you a witness to the incident?”
“No. A neighbor heard my daughter’s screams and called me.”
“Is this the first time for this alleged type of incident?”
“My daughter, Jennifer, hasn’t told me of another.”
“What’s the father’s name and address?”
“Mike Johnson. Sixty-seven-ninety-nine Grace Glen Court, Clairmont.”
“Stay on the line.”
The Dispatcher communicated with Police Headquarters.
Within ten minutes two police officers arrived at the reported location in two black patrol cars with flashing red and blue lights. A holstered gun rested on each officer’s hip.
An officer rang the front door bell causing a dog inside the house to bark. A man in his forties opened the door, holding his Rottweiler by the collar. The mingling aromas of fried potatoes, onions and garlic followed him.
“Good evening. Mr. Johnson?” asked Officer Bretzing. The Officer’s thick, black hair, frosted with gray, lay over a plump face that held deep-set eyes and a button nose.
Mike Johnson rubbed his raised eyebrow. A narrow, black mustache grew under his wide, flat nose. His gray eyes looked from his high cheek-boned-face and a vertical line creased his forehead. A full reddish beard covered his chin.
“I’m Officer Bretzing. My partner is Officer Pope.”
Mike saw a short, round man with curly, brown hair and piercing coal-black eyes. His arched nose, shaped like a beak, rested on a thin face.
Officer Bretzing said, “We’re responding to a report of a disturbance at this location.”
“About what?” Mike asked in an irritated tone.
“Is your daughter at home?”
“Yes. What’s the concern?”
“Is she available to speak with us? We’re investigating a child abuse complaint.”
“What?” Mike’s face stiffened. “I don’t believe it. Who complained?”
“We need to ask your daughter a few questions.”
“Jennifer!” Mike called loudly.
“An Officer wants to talk to you.”
A slender sixteen-year-old wearing pink lipstick bounced barefoot down the carpeted stairs. Thick, black eyebrows lay beneath long, blonde bangs and blue mascara coated her eyelashes.
“Hi,” Officer Bretzing said.
“What’s your name?”
“Jennifer,” she answered in a questioning tone.
“Have you had any issues with your father today?” Officer Bretzing asked in a steady voice.
“What do you mean?” she asked and furrowed her brow.
“Is your father mistreating you in any way?”
“Of course not.”
“Were you screaming this evening?”
“My Dad shouted at me and I shouted back.”
“Mr. Johnson, why the yelling?” asked Officer Bretzing.
“I told her hundreds of times to be home by midnight. She came back from a party at 2 a.m. We’ve talked with a counselor about respecting the curfew. If it continues to be a problem, some of her privileges will be taken away.”
“Jennifer, is that right?”
She folded her arms. “Yes.”
“Do you have any concerns with your father?”
“No,” she replied in firm voice.
Their attention was diverted as Susan Johnson drove her dusty, black car fast into the driveway.
“Oh, Christ!” said Mike. “She’s the one who called you.”
Susan ran towards the officers. “Are you gonna arrest him?”
“Mr. Johnson, go into the house with your daughter and close the door,” said Officer Bretzing.
Mike complied. He and Jennifer strode to the living room where they stood at the front bay window watching Susan and the Officers.
“Are you Mrs. Johnson?” Officer Pope asked, inspecting her dark brown hair and red-rimmed, cold eyes.
“Yes, I am.”
“Mrs. Johnson, can I see your I.D?”
Susan snatched a purse from her car and handed him her driver’s license.
Officer Pope said, “Wait here while I do a background check.”
“Why are you checking on me?” she asked, her eyes flashing defiantly.
“Following procedures, Ma’am.”
Officer Pope walked to his patrol car. A few minutes passed before he motioned to Officer Bretzing to join him. Officer Pope pointed to a monitor in the patrol car and Officer Bretzing nodded.
Officer Pope walked towards Susan who stared at her feet like a nervous adolescent.
“Mrs. Johnson, you were issued a restraining order three weeks ago. You were ordered to stay away from your daughter at her father’s house and at her school because of threats and harassment.”
“I came to check if my daughter’s O.K.”
“Other items: pleaded guilty to petty theft of merchandise, did not show up for community service or make restitution, failed to appear in court three times, did not pay outstanding fines. I’m taking you into custody.”
Officer Pope read Susan the Miranda Rights and put on blue plastic gloves.
“A doctor told me that my weight is thirty percent above normal,” Susan said. “I have type 2 diabetes and I’m at risk of a heart attack.”
“If you need medical attention you’ll get it,” Officer Bretzing said decisively.
Officer Pope said, “Turn around and put your hands behind your back.”
He handcuffed Susan and led her to Officer Bretzing’s car.
“Mrs. Johnson, I’m gonna search your car,” said Officer Pope.
The Officer found a packet of pot in a backpack.
Officer Bretzing drove towards the San Diego Detention Center. In the back of his patrol car Susan closed her eyes. She remembered the day, as a young girl, when she watched her prostitute mother, Diana, being handcuffed and pushed into a police car.
Susan clamped her teeth and salty tears spilled down her cheeks. She thought, Jennifer might be a parent one day. Would she be a good mother?
Nausea and dizziness engulfed Susan. She clenched her fists and screamed in despair.
Officer Bretzing studied her in his rear-view mirror and continued driving steadily.